“‘But if you had known what this means, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:7–8).
God has not hesitated to set aside His laws for the sake of mercy toward sinners. Otherwise none of them would be saved or even born, because He would have destroyed them right after they sinned. God’s plan was not to condemn all sinners but to save from its penalty those who believe in His Son. And if a righteous and just God displays that kind of love and mercy, how much more ought His children reflect the same quality of mercy?
Because the Old Testament Sabbath was God’s special day, faithful Jews would have wanted to show mercy on that day. But the leaders, due to their wrong-headed interpretation of the Sabbath and their basic unbelief, actually violated the spirit of the Sabbath. They refused acts of mercy on that day, not because of biblical devotion to the law, but because they lacked compassion.
Since the “Lord of the Sabbath” has come, the obligation of a Sabbath rest is no longer applicable to believers. Under the new covenant, they have the freedom as to whether or not they honor any day above others. Whatever position they take, they must glorify the Lord (Rom. 14:5–6), but not impose their thinking on fellow believers (Gal. 4:9–10; Col. 2:16).
Strict Sabbath observance was never to supplant sincere mercy and compassion by believers. God is merciful and commands us as Christians to be merciful.
Rather than looking at the Sabbath as a day for not doing certain things, what might be some deliberate actions you could undertake on the Sabbath, whether in hospitality or compassion or service?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.